World Water Day 2010 On March 22nd

22nd March is celebrated as the International World Water Day. This day marks the significance of fresh water and it also promotes the management of the fresh water sources.
The world water day spreads awareness for maintaining a healthy ecosystem by maintaining the water resources and maintaining the quality of fresh water. It also encourages all communities, government organizations, and people across the globe to take part in preventing water pollution and to clean up the water resources to maintain the quality of fresh water.
The quality of water is deteriorated day by day due to the release of chemicals from factories and also due to the increase of population and industries.
The maintenance of proper human health is widely dependent on fresh water. A single person needs about 50 litres of fresh water a day for drinking, sanitation, cooking and taking bath. Some developing countries lack proper sewage maintenance which leads to fresh drinking water contamination which spreads diseases.
As per the World Health Organization (WHO) reports, more than 4 billion people suffer from diarrhea every year along with other ailments due to contaminated water.
Fresh water resources should be protected by collective initiative by each one of us. Both public and private sectors should take necessary steps to protect the water from being contaminated. All of us should take active participation in preventing water pollution for maintaining a healthy society.

Britain announces new immigration rules

Britain on Thursday announced new immigration rules for skilled and highly skilled migrants, including those from India, under which the criteria of earnings has been increased.

Under the new rules, which will be applicable from April 6, the minimum previous earnings for those applying under Tier I has been increased from the current £20,000 to £25,000 pounds.

For Tier II, the minimum prospective earnings has been increased from £17,000 to £20,000 pounds, while the highest earnings threshold has been set at £32,000, increased from £24,000, a release from the British High Commission said.

India continues to be an important source country of highly skilled and skilled migrants and Indian migrants continue to do well under Tier I and II of the points based system, with New Delhi accounting for the highest number of Tier II applications worldwide.

Tier II (ICT) will no longer lead to settlement in the UK, to reflect the intrinsically temporary nature of ICT roles, the release said.

The U.K. Government also accepted changes to Tier I recommended by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) and has set out further details of how it will implement changes the MAC recommended to Tier II.

It also reintroduced points for Bachelor Degrees for those with high previous earnings (of at least £35,000).

How to stay safe on Twitter

The Twitter “crimewave” reached a preliminary peak in October 2009, according to Barracuda Networks, which estimated that 12% of accounts created were eventually suspended as either malicious, suspicious or otherwise misused. In 2008, the equivalent “Twitter crime rate” averaged around 2%.

Last week, sensibly, Twitter launched a new automatic link screening service aimed at preventing phishing and other malicious attacks.

It also has advice for users on how to stay safe on Twitter:

– Use a strong password.

– Watch out for suspicious links.

– Make sure you’re at the real Twitter login page before entering data.

Twitter is also increasingly deleting misused accounts, a spokesperson of Barracuda Network says. “We fight phishing scams by detecting affected accounts and resetting passwords,” said Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter in a post. However, numerous accounts were used for malicious purposes such as poisoning trending topic threads with malicious URLs.

According to the report of Barracuda Network, Twitter experienced a number of attacks in 2009 including the following:

– January: Increase in Phishing Attacks on Twitter

– April: StalkDaily/Mikeyy worm

– June: Guy Kawasaki Account Offers Leighton Meester sex tape

– July: Koobface Increase in Twitter Activity

– July: Fake Retweets Spam

– August: Profile Image Spam

– August: Distributed Denial of Service Attacks

– September: Spam Increase including ‘Google is hiring’

– September: Direct Message Worm

– December: DNS records compromised and Web site defaced by “Iranian Cyber Army”

As reported recently, thousands of Twitter users were victims of a severe phishing attack where users found a direct message from someone they followed saying “LOL that you–“, or just “This you –” including a link to a fake Twitter login page, which URL contained already the users Twitter name.

If the user entered his or her credentials on that page, the phishers could sign in and trick more people. Twitter blogged about that phishing scam, and explained to its users how to detect and avoid an attack.

“As social networking, and specifically Twitter, becomes more ingrained in everyday business, it is crucial to understand the nature of attacks happening on these sites, as well as how users and networks can be compromised.” says Dr Paul Judge, chief research officer at Barracuda Networks.


Ways to avoid getting duped at a petrol station

 Fuel prices are getting dearer by the day but are we getting every drop of fuel paid for? Well, if the outpouring of woes online is any indicator, then no, we have a long way to go to prevent being cheated at fuel stations.

 These are some who have realized the bluff, though may not have taken the outlet to task – but there are many others who aren’t aware of such nefarious deeds. Hence the possibility of them getting duped is even more likely, and often repeatedly.

 So as customers, how can we ensure we aren’t at the receiving end of this trickery? What are the precautions that need to be taken and how do we get our grievances addressed? Here’s more-


 *Keep a keen eye on YOUR fuel pump – especially in the beginning and just before the end of the fill. Avoid all distractions – it’s indeed a blessing that cell phones aren’t allowed in fuel stations. Other distractions like your car stereo or balancing your 2-wheeher can be avoided too.

*Make sure the fuel attendant has heard the amount right. To be doubly sure, ask the attendant to repeat, just as you in restaurants, though this should be a lot easier for him.

*Pay the amount ONLY AFTER the filling is complete. In most cases, either due to our overzealousness or simply being told by the attendant, we often end-up fiddling our pockets or wallets, in the process neglecting the fill.

*Keep track of your fuel indicator during every refill, for this reading can be good source of verification. If your 2-wheeler fuel indicator takes that little longer to reflect, do wait by the side until it shows up. You really wouldn’t want to find out being duped in the middle of traffic.

*Also, it’s a misplaced notion that meters in fuel pumps are tamper-proof. While meter tampering is a grave issue, it can only be checked by specialists. However, this can be checked by informing the concerned fuel company.

In spite of these precautions, if you still get duped, it’s best to file a complaint. Take my word, the process isn’t as cumbersome as one may imagine, in fact it is a lot more effective than creating a ruckus at the petrol station.

You can share your complaint at the ‘Indian Consumer Complaints Forum’ or even better – register it directly with the respective fuel company. Their websites have contact details of various regional offices that you can directly walk-in to as well as an online complaint form and even a toll-free number.

And if you’re wondering if they do ever respond, well, in our case the field-officer from one of the regional offices promptly called to enquire, and ensured that the grievance was addressed. Nevertheless, we could have avoided all this, had we practiced what we just preached 🙂

 –Y! India News

Readers don’t want to pay for news online

Getting people to pay for news online at this point would be “like trying to force butterflies back into their cocoons,” a new consumer survey suggests.

That was one of several bleak headlines in the Project for Excellence in Journalism’s annual assessment of the state of the news industry, released on Sunday.

The project’s report contained an extensive look at habits of the estimated six in 10 Americans who say they get at least some news online during a typical day. On average, each person spends three minutes and four seconds per visit to a news site.

About 35 percent of online news consumers said they have a favorite site that they check each day. The others are essentially free agents, the project said. Even among those who have their favorites, only 19 percent said they would be willing to pay for news online — including those who already do.

There’s little brand loyalty: 82 percent of people with preferred news sites said they’d look elsewhere if their favorites start demanding payment.

“If we move to some pay system, that shift is going to have to surmount significant consumer resistance,” said Tom Rosenstiel, director of the project, part of the Pew Research Center.

Last year, online advertising saw its first decline since 2002, according to the research firm eMarketer. Four of five Americans surveyed told the project that they never or hardly ever click on ads.

Despite a lot of choices, traffic on news sites tends to be concentrated on the biggest — Yahoo, MSNBC, CNN, AOL and The New York Times.

“There was this view that we’re retreating into our own world of niche sites and that’s not true,” Rosenstiel said.

That offers a glimmer of hope for establishing a pay system if operators of the biggest sites could somehow agree on how to do it, he said. The survey found that if forced to make a choice, consumers prefer some kind of subscription service to a pay-as-you-go plan.

The Wall Street Journal requires readers to pay for content and The New York Times recently announced plans to charge for full access to its Web site. Starting next year under a metered system, Times readers will be allowed to click on a certain number of stories for free each month, with fees kicking in for readers who exceed that level.

In addition to attempts to reach back and charge readers for content they have become accustomed to getting for free, news executives hope that advances in technology and changes in consumer habits will provide future revenue opportunities.

The Associated Press last month announced a new business unit, AP Gateway, designed to develop and promote products that will help the cooperative, newspapers and broadcasters create revenue-producing products. The AP, for instance, will charge for an application it is developing for use on the iPad, Apple’s tablet computer.

While consumers may seem reluctant to pay for news, they’re more likely to pay for the functionality of news products on various devices, including smart phones, said Jane Seagrave, senior vice president and chief revenue officer at The Associated Press.

“I’m more hopeful now than I ever have been,” Seagrave said. “There seems to be a broad understanding that there is a value to professional journalism that is at risk right now.”

Pew’s survey also noted how news habits are changing rapidly. Blogging is declining in frequency, one quarter of Americans now say they get some news on their mobile phones and people are looking for news more frequently on social Web sites, the survey found.

For the online survey, the project interviewed 2,259 people from Dec. 28, 2009, to Jan. 19, 2010. The margin of error is plus or minus five percentage points.

Beyond the online activity, the study found that cable news, led by Fox News Channel, seemed to be the only sector of the news industry thriving.

Newspaper advertising revenue fell 26 percent in 2009 compared to the year before, the study said. Local TV and radio ad revenue were both off 22 percent. Network television ad revenue was down 8 percent.

Network news division resources are down more than half since the late 1980s, and that doesn’t count ABC News’ recent announcement that it could lose as much as a quarter of its staff due to cutbacks.

Newspaper spending on reporting and editing has fallen roughly 30 percent over the past decade, probably more at many big-city dailies, Rosenstiel said.

SBI to open 1,000 semi urban, rural area branches

State Bank of India (SBI), India’s leading lending institution, plans to open 1,000 branches in rural and semi-urban areas of the country during the 2010-11 financial year.

“During this financial year, till now we have opened about 600 branches in rural and semi-urban areas, and next (financial) year we are planning to open 1,000 branches in these areas,” SBI chief general manager for rural business Jayanta K. Sinha told reporters here on the sidelines of an event.

“We aim at expanding our reach to masses in rural India,” he said.

At present, the bank has more than 8,000 rural branches.

Asked what was the status of non-performing assets (NPAs) for the bank’s rural business, he said: “Before the government launched the debt-waiver scheme, we used to face problems of having big numbers of NPAs. But now, the things have improved and there has been a drastic decline in the number of NPAs for rural business.”

However, Mr. Sinha declined to provide any specific numbers. “Now, it (the NPA level) is same as for any other business,” he said.

Costly gifts could put doctors out of practice for up to a year

In an attempt to tackle the problem of doctors accepting expensive gifts from the pharmaceutical and health care industry, the Medical Council of India (MCI) has decided to propose that doctors found accepting costly gifts not be allowed to practise for a year and more. The proposal will be sent to the Union Health Ministry for approval this week.

Having decided that a blanket ban on gifts, as proposed earlier, would not work, it is proposed that changes be made in the professional conduct, etiquette and ethics regulation. So doctors accepting gifts would be struck off the Indian medical register for periods ranging from three months to more than one year or as decided by the state medical council if they are found to be indulging in any wrongdoing.

While those accepting gifts worth more than Rs 1,000, till up to Rs 5,000, will be given a warning, those found to have taken gifts for more than Rs 5,000, till up to Rs 10,000, will have their names removed from the MCI register for three months. A gift worth between Rs 10,000 and Rs 50,000 can lead to removal from MCI register/state medical register for six months, and one above Rs 1 lakh would invite a penalty of more than a year.

‘Air India at disadvantage against private airlines’

Air India is facing a disadvantage as profitable routes in both domestic and international sectors were being allocated to private carriers

 Noting that Air India was reportedly at a disadvantage vis-a-vis the private players, a Parliamentary Committee has asked the government to make rules to penalise those airlines which were not operating 10 per cent of their capacity to socially important but commercially unviable routes like the Northeast.

The recommendation of the Committee on Public Undertakings (COPU) came in the wake of reports that the State-run Air India was facing a disadvantage as profitable routes in both domestic and international sectors were being allocated to private carriers.

Noting that these reports cannot be ignored, the COPU sought amendments to the Route Dispersal Guidelines to ensure “strict compliance” by all scheduled airlines to mandatorily operate 10 per cent of their flights to such sectors, called Category-II, II-A or III routes.

It suggested that airlines be compensated for operating flights in these far-flung regions in excess of this mandatory requirement.

The COPU report, tabled in Parliament on Friday, also sought creation of a mechanism to make these guidelines “mandatory for all private airlines and for punitive action against the violators.”

It listed out over 80 international and domestic routes from where Air India withdrew flights since 2002-03.

In the process of finalising its report, the COPU raised a large number of questions on the issue of route allocations, including about complaints that “remunerative routes are being surrendered” by the national carrier to private airlines.

It also wanted to know who decided the routes to be operated by the airline — the Ministry or the airline — and the considerations on which the decision to surrender a route was based. To this, Air India replied that it decided the routes it would operate on its own.

The airline officials, while deposing before the COPU, said several loss-making routes were taken off its network, while flights from some more were withdrawn due to shortage of aircraft.

The Committee asked the Civil Aviation Ministry to conduct a “transparent review” of the entire route and slot allocations in domestic and international sectors.

After the review, the Ministry should “effect necessary changes” to ensure that Air India was “neither put to any disadvantage nor appear to be placed in any disadvantageous position”, the COPU said.

Cyber attacks worry firms more than terrorism

When it comes to threats, natural or man-made, Indian companies have rated cyber security as a major concern. In the light of increased cyber attacks, over 42 per cent of enterprises perceive cyber crime as a bigger threat than terrorism, crime and natural disasters.

This was one of the findings of ‘2010 State of Enterprise Security Study,’ a global study carried out by Symantec Software Solutions Pvt. Ltd., where Indian companies from sectors such as telecom, hospitality, manufacturing, retail and technology participated.

“Indian enterprises are experiencing frequent cyber attacks and the losses incurred due to them are escalating. In the past 12 months, 66 per cent of the companies experienced cyber intrusions and 51 per cent of them reported repeated attacks, while 34 per cent have experienced high number of malicious hits. On the other hand, 31 per cent said there were internal attacks as well,” said Vishal Dhupar, managing director, Symantec Software Solutions Pvt. Ltd., at a press conference here on Tuesday.

Also, each cyber attack had a financial impact, as organisations reported loss of revenue. “Apart from financial loss, companies will have to put up with damaged brand reputation, loss of customer trust. The average revenue lost by companies due to the virtual attacks was recorded at Rs. 58.59 lakh in 2009.” Interestingly, with IT security becoming a daunting issue for enterprises, the study pointed out that implementation of enterprise security is turning into a difficult task.

“Enterprise security is understaffed and the most affected areas in organisations are network security, web security and data-loss prevention. To tackle the issue, companies need to secure their messaging and web environments and defending critical internal servers. They should also have the ability to back up and recover data and respond to threats rapidly.”

To overcome such threats, companies should develop and enforce IT policies to secure data breach in anyway possible. “By prioritising risks and defining policies, companies will not only be able to identify threats but also come up with remedies. Also, they should know the location of sensitive information and how it’s coming or leaving the organisation. Companies should be able to monitor and report their systems status and be ready for any kind of threat.”

Swamis and Scandals

Swami Paramhansa Nityanand: The founder of the Nityanand mission, which claims to have 1,000 branches across 33 countries, has been untraceable since certain Tamil TV channels recently aired a video which allegedly shows him in a compromising position with a Tamil actress. Nityanand, who has ashrams in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Puducherry, hails from Tamil Nadu and has a sprawling ashram in Bidadi, 30 km from Bangalore. He claims to lead a worldwide movement for meditation and peace. Lenin Karuppan, a former disciple, has said that he shot the video to expose the swami. Lenin has alleged that his life has been under threat from the swami, adding that he also suspected foul play behind the death of a woman inmate a year ago. In the complaint filed with Chennai City Police Commissioner T Rajendran, Lenin, who claimed to be an inmate of the ashram in Bangalore since 2006, said the swami used to lure young women devotees claiming that he was the reincarnation of Lord Krishna.

Anup Kumar Sahay: A self-proclaimed godman in Ghaziabad, he was booked on Sunday for abducting his cousin. According to a complaint filed by Subha Srivastava, mother of the victim, the accused along with his brother Ashok Kumar Sahay abducted her daughter Priyanka Srivastava on February 15. The self-proclaimed godman has been booked under sections 363, 313 and 366 of the IPC which pertain to kidnapping and forcing a woman to undergo abortion without her will.

Kripaluji Maharaj: Ram Kripal Tripathi aka Kripaluji Maharaj, at whose ashram near Pratapgarh in UP 63 people died in a stampede last week, was charged with kidnapping and rape in two cases in Nagpur in 1991. He was acquitted after the witnesses turned hostile. He was arrested in 2007 after a Guyanese woman in South Trinidad filed a rape case against him.

Sant Swami Bhimanand Ji Maharaj Chitrakoot Wale: Shiv Murti Dwivedi alias Sant Swami Bhimanand Ji Maharaj Chitrakoot Wale (39), a self-styled godman, was arrested by the Delhi Police last month on charges of operating a high-profile sex racket involving former airhostesses and students.

Asaram Bapu: Two minor boys of the Asaram Ashram-run gurukul in Ahmedabad were found dead in the Sabarmati riverbed two days after they mysteriously went missing from the gurukul in February 2008. The police booked Asaram Bapu in a criminal case pertaining to attempt to murder last year in December on the basis of a complaint filed by Raju Chandak, a former disciple of Asaram. Chandak was shot at by two persons on December 5 and he sustained injuries on his chest and shoulders. Chandak alleged that he was targeted at the behest of Asaram, as he had testified before the D K Trivedi Commission probing into the death of the two boys.

Jayendra Saraswati: The influential Kanchi math Shankaracharya was arrested by the Tamil Nadu Police in Mehboobnagar in Andhra Pradesh in November 2004 in connection with the murder of a former accountant of the math.

Santosh Madhavan: The temple priest-turned-astrologer wanted by the Interpol – was arrested in Alappuzha in May 2008. Apart from a Rs 50 lakh fraud case that has a Dubai-based businesswoman as the complainant, Madhavan, who had turned himself into Swami Amritachaitanya presiding over a posh ashram and flaunting high connections in the state’s political circle and the bureaucracy, was also charged with raping a 15-year-old girl repeatedly.

Premananda: Also known as Trichy Sai Baba, he was awarded life imprisonment in 1994 for two terms on the charges of multiple criminal offences including rape and murder. Premananda, who reportedly had powerful supporters in the AIADMK, had not only raped many of the inmates of his ashram at Trichy but also carried out crude medical terminations of some of the consequent pregnancies with the help of a couple of associates. He was also charged with the murder of an engineer who had opposed the nefarious activities at the ashram.


When a doctor donated her kidney to a patient

SETTING AN EXAMPLE: Dr. Susan Hou (fifth from left) interacting with students at a programme in Chennai on Monday. (From right) Dr. Georgi Abraham, founder trustee TANKER Foundation and Latha A. Kumaraswami, managing trustee, are in the picture

“It is much harder to do the right thing every day when no one is looking. Donating a kidney is much easier.” Susan Hou only says that because she really believes that is true.

Seven-and-a-half years ago, Dr. Hou, a nephrologist at the University Medical Centre, Chicago, gave her kidney to her patient. “I’ve had patients ask me for a kidney, but the woman I finally gave it to never asked me. My only criterion was that I should give it to someone smaller than me, and that really narrows it down,” the rather petite nephrologist with a cracking sense of humour says. “The question is not why I did it, but what took me so long. There was much reluctance to use unrelated donors in the U.S. then,” Dr. Hou explains in a chat after a lecture on renal disorders in pregnancy organised by Tanker Foundation on Monday. The strongest criticism came from India, where people said women without rights would be forced to donate one of their kidneys to their husband. Now there are drugs to make unrelated transplants work too.

The process of evaluating a donor’s intent and physical condition is crucial, she adds. There can be a lot of coercion; people are not so convinced that they should be donating. “When I donated, nobody was pressuring me. If you believe in the brotherhood of man, then there are no unrelated donors.”

One has to ensure that there is no money changing hands. “If we have the feeling a donor doesn’t really want to donate, then we tell them they cannot do it.” The donor also has to be healthy enough and with good kidney function that will likely be good in future. It is essential that the donor has no infection or cancer that he could give to the recipient.

She herself had a “not-so bad” recovery from her traditional nephrectomy. But that is Dr. Hou as usual underplaying the drama. Twelve days after surgery, she flew to Philadelphia for a lecture and 13 days later, she was on a flight to Budapest. None of her children was surprised she had donated her kidney to a patient, and “Mark [Molitch, her husband, an endocrinologist] was very happy later, but very worried…on the day before the surgery.”

When colleagues ask her if she recommends every nephrologist donate a kidney to a patient, she says matter-of-factly, “You don’t have to do it unless you want to. You can do something else.” “Everyone pats you on the back and gives you a plaque when you donate a kidney, but they don’t do that when you hold the elevator door open or refuse a drug company,” Dr. Hou says. On Monday, Georgi Abraham, founder-trustee of Tanker Foundation, honoured her, and yes, a plaque was in the picture.

But, yes, you can see it really does warm the cockles of her heart that her patient is still running on the donated kidney. “I am happy every year that the kidney’s still working… Seven-and-a-half years later, someone doesn’t need dialysis or a new kidney, it’s a great feeling,” Dr. Hou says.

Air India’s all-woman flight a runaway success

MUMBAI: Flight AI-141 that took off from Mumbai airport early Monday, flying over 11 countries on its way to New York, almost made history — all women pilots, despatchers, check-in staff and pre-flight doctors. In fact, all that came between it and the record books was a Supreme Court ruling making it mandatory for flight on which alcohol is served to have male pursers on board.

But for two flight pursers, the 15-hour non-stop flight between Mumbai and New York would have made history with an all-woman crew. The record proved elusive as the cabin crew comprised 12 women and two men. Still, the women were all gung-ho as they walked into the airport terminal to operate the flight, celebrating International Women’s Day in their own way.

Hours before the two commanders — Capt Rashmi Miranda and Capt Sunita Narula — and two first officers — Swati Rawal and Neha Kulkarni — boarded the Boeing 777-200 LR aircraft, flight despatcher Nandita Deshpade sat down to work out the flight plan for the route. “This time of the year, aircrafts encounter headwinds while flying West,” said Capt Miranda. For Deshpande, who did the flight planning, the six-hour job meant calculating the minimum fuel route keeping in mind weather conditions and other factors like navigation aids enroute, overflying permits etc.

The time to cover 13,000 km between Mumbai and New York worked out to 15 hours 56 minutes with 30 knots headwinds burning fuel at the rate of 7,600 kg/hr. “The flight plan for the all-woman cockpit crew took the aircraft on altitudes ranging from 37,000-39,000 feet over Pakistan, Iran, Ukraine, Georgia, Russia, Denmark, Sweden, UK, Norway, Iceland and then four hours over the Atlantic ocean to reach Canada and then the US,” said Deshpande.

Air India has 96 women pilots on its rolls, while Indian has 40, making the total the largest in the country. Women pilots in airlines in India constitute about 12% of the total workforce, way higher than the global average of 6%.

Tirupati idols, ‘laddu’ for Obama

The governing body of the Tirumala temple at Tirupati is planning to present a golden idol of Lord Venkateswara and prasad to US President Barack Obama.

 “The organisers of Kalyanotsavam (a special puja) at New Jersey are planning to invite Obama. We also want to present him a golden idol of Lord Venkateshwara,” TTD chairman D K Adikesavulu Naidu told reporters.

“He (Obama) believes in Hinduism, Lord Hanuman and the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi. We also want to give him laddu prasadam, our publications, everything we can give him,” he said.

Naidu said he would seek an appointment with Obama if he does not attend the function at New Jersey.

The Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam, the governing body, would organise Kalyanotsavam at various places in the country to propagate Hindu philosophy, he said.

On April 21, the Kalyanotsavam would be held in New Delhi; he said but did not announce the date for the New Jersey programme.

Naidu said security arrangements are being spruced up but there is no specific information of any threat.

 He also said a dress code for the employees will be announced soon

M.F. Husain surrenders passport

Legendary painter M.F. Husain, who was recently granted Qatari citizenship, has surrendered his Indian passport to the country’s mission in Doha, a media report said on Monday.

95-year-old Husain, revered by many as India’s Picasso, on Sunday went to the country’s mission in Doha and surrendered his Indian passport, the Gulf Times reported. Husain, who has been living in self-imposed exile for nearly four years following a spate of cases in India over his controversial paintings of Hindu goddesses, had accepted Qatar’s offer and would no longer be an Indian, said his son Owais Husain.

India does not recognise dual citizenship. So, “in such a situation, surrendering passport by the person concerned is mandatory and Husain has only done that,” an Indian Embassy official was quoted as saying by the paper.

The artist has also applied for the Overseas Citizen of India card, the mission sources said, adding the embassy has facilitated all requirements for him to obtain the OCI card.

He also had a nearly two-hour meeting with Indian Ambassador in Qatar Deepa Gopalan Wadhwa, the sources said. Husain, who shuttles between Dubai and London, went in exile after a hate campaign was launched against him in 2006 over his controversial paintings.

Several cases were filed against him by people protesting his portrayal of Hindu goddesses in the nude. His house was attacked and art works vandalised by fundamentalists in India. Indian government has described Husain as “pride of India” and said it was willing to provide security to him.

“There is no case against M F Husain. Supreme Court has quashed all the cases against him,” Home Secretary G K Pillai had recently said. He said the government was ready to provide security to the artist if he planned to return.

“He (Husain) is the pride of India,” Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao had said, adding, “I would like him to feel safe and secure in India”.

After handing over his passport, Husain said though he was giving up the Indian citizenship he would continue to be known as an Indian and he was only proud about that. Husain said he was returning the Indian passport as dual citizenship was not allowed by both India and Qatar.

“Citizenship and passport were a matter of a piece of paper. Accepting Qatar citizenship would not mean that I would cease to be an Indian or artist of India. Remaining an Indian would be my birthright and there are millions in India who still love me,” Husain was quoted as saying by the Gulf edition of Malayalam daily Madhyamam.

India is a country with rich cultural heritage and only minuscule minuscule minority ignorant of its liberal traditions who had made a hue and cry over my pictures, said Husain.

“Art is universal and something that transcends all artificial boundaries. I am just a living being in the universe created by God. I will have a small patch of land on the earth when I die. Where I am going to be buried on this earth is not a problem that affects me,” he said.

Asked if his acceptance of Qatari citizenship was a ploy to overcome income tax problems in India, Husain said he was a person who paid income tax in India for his paintings sold in Singapore for Rs 25 crore.

‘Equal Rights, Equal Opportunities: Progress For All’

IN order to build a great democratic, just, fair and humane society, it is of utmost importance to arouse the broad masses of our people to join the struggle that will ensure “equal rights, equal opportunities and progress for all”.

Genuine equality between women and men, girls and boys can only be realised in the process of a just, fair and humane transformation of our society as a whole.

There’s need for us to unite and enable women to take their rightful place in production and political activity to improve their economic and political status.

There is need to educate ourselves and others to take a more correct view of women and to actively redress the injustices done to women in all our institutions – the Church, state and family.

Women must not be treated as mere passive participants in national development. But they must enjoy fundamental rights and freedoms befitting all human beings, both in domestic and public life. Women need to be treated justly in families, workplaces, public life and the Church.

Women are a backbone of our families and play major roles in our economy, especially in rural areas. The life and health of women are of central importance to the future development of our nation.

This being the case, the calls for the true empowering of women to enable them to participate in decision making in our society need to be heeded.

Women bring special gifts to the progress of our country. If they are not listened to and are discriminated against, then we simply will not have sustainable and equitable progress.

And men should be more involved in promoting women’s rights. Advancement will not go very far unless women and girls are enabled to enjoy the same rights and opportunities as men and boys.

Women must be represented at decision-making levels in both economics and politics, to sustainably achieve development goals.

True empowering of women enables them to participate in decision-making processes in society. One effective strategy towards empowering women is to promote equal opportunity for women’s representation in decision-making positions.

Women also have the right and duty to take part in the political and administrative work of our nation. Women possess full equality and dignity and have a significant role to play in the affairs of our country.

This discrimination and marginalisation of women doesn’t make sense even biblically because we are told: “There is not male and female; for you are all one in Jesus Christ” (Gal 3:28).

Politically, women have contributed a lot in all our struggles. Women have thrown their lot, alongside men, with our struggle for independence and democracy. And women, alongside men, have fallen in that struggle. Here is the most profound equality of all: equality in suffering and in hope.

Clearly, woman is the protector of humankind. But she is the creator of humanity – of humanness and humaneness – as well, in a specific manner all her own: in the delicacy of her service, her limitless self-donation, her affective and effective contact with the people, and that compassion of hers that simply will not rationalise the suffering of the poor.

Woman is the creator of a courage that will never abandon the suffering. Woman is more defenceless physically. This fact points out the singular barbarity of their being subjected to domestic violence and to the criminal activities of rapists. It shows that barbarity for what it is.

We come back again to the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day – “Equal Rights, Equal Opportunities: Progress For All” – and analyse what’s happening. Not enough work has been done; more work still needs to be done to ensure equal rights, equal opportunities and progress for all.

The question that arises is why after so many years of struggle, so many years of commemorations, the women’s situation still remains what it is? Some people are even today asking if women can be equal partners with men in development.

A brilliant response to this question has been given by Macleod Nyirongo, the UN Resident/Humantarian Coordinator in Zambia, when he says: “This is a question that is still under debate, not surprisingly, protracted by men! In answering this question on my part, I am seizing the momentous occasion of the commemoration of International Women’s Day, to discuss gender, an issue much talked about but less understood, and also deliberately distorted by, particularly my fellow men! Gender refers to the socially constructed differences and relations between males and females. These vary widely among societies and cultures and change over time.

Gender characterises the differing roles, responsibilities, constraints, opportunities and needs of females and males in all areas and in any given social context. Hence, one can safely say that gender roles are learned behaviours in a given society, community or other social groups.

These roles condition which activities, tasks and responsibilities are perceived as appropriate for males and females respectively. This perception of roles and responsibilities has serious implications on power relations between females and males of all ages which in turn determine who has access to and control over tangible and intangible resources.

Arguments of why it is perceived that women cannot have equal opportunities as men abound. Again these are purported by men and, unfortunately at times supported by women who are themselves victims of the “African tradition argument”.

These include arguments that women are weaker than men; women are not good decision makers and hence cannot be in position of high authority and also that the whole discussion of gender equality is foreign and goes against the African tradition.

None of these are true! These perceptions have also resulted in some men insisting that women must remain subordinate and have sometimes treated them with ridicule and as sex objects.

I do not think you will be surprised that my response to the question, “can we be equal partners in development?” is a resounding yes: women can be equal partners in development.

I am supported by this, firstly by history. In many countries of this sub-region, including Zambia and my own country Malawi, women have held positions of power and decision making in the traditional governance structures, some of the very strong chiefdoms in Zambia today are headed by women.

In recent times, there have been a number of breakthroughs of women holding high offices in government, one example is Mrs Ellen Sirleaf Johnson, who is the first African female president; she was elected into office when Liberia was in ruins due to a war for power amongst men!

Today, Liberia is a country on the mend with a government administration that is mostly led by women. In Zambia, a number of women in decision making, including some in the private sector, are among the best performers if not the best.

Furthermore, the argument about women being weaker than or not as strong as men is negated by the numbers of women who fought alongside their fellow men in the liberation struggles of most African countries.

We must therefore move from the delay and sterile tactics of always questioning the ability of women, by embracing the realisation that we are equal partners in the development processes of our nations. Fellow men, I understand that we have held positions of power for a long time now, and it may be uncomfortable to share this power with our countrywomen.

We must realise that women as citizens have just the same rights that we do in holding positions of power, participating in their national development process and most of all, to be treated with dignity and respect just as we expect to be.

My final message to all men and women: the key factor in social transformation is education. So get all those girls to school. Do not marry them off early, for this is where they lose out against boys. It is the RIGHT thing to do!”

Today, as yesterday, there is no other formula for building our country into a prosperous, just, fair and humane nation: we must emerge from ourselves, we must devote ourselves to the cause of women – to the discriminated, very marginalised and poorest.

And perhaps this is the moment to take seriously something that theology has been telling us in its too spiritualistic and too academic way: salvation comes by way of a woman – Mary, the virgin of the cross and of the Magnificat. Salvation comes to us through all women who love truth more than lies, who are more eager to give than to receive, and whose love is that supreme love that gives life rather than keeping it for oneself.

Clearly, there is need for us to broaden our understanding of women’s situation in our socio-economic, political and religio-cultural realities and articulate faith reflections on women’s realities and struggles. And in this way deepen our commitment and solidarity work towards full humanity for all.

The discrimination and marginalisation of women is affirmed as a hard and abiding reality of life. Women have an irreplaceable role in society, yet their contribution is not acknowledged, nor are they accorded equal rights and opportunities with their male counterparts.

This oppression is felt in all sectors of life: economic, social, political, cultural, sexual, religious and even within the family itself. Having become conscious of their human rights and of the injustices perpetrated against them in all these sectors, there is need to team up with them and help them.

We should be aware that the liberation of women from these injustices is part and parcel of the liberation of all the poor and oppressed.

This realisation demands a total rupture with the prevailing patriarchal system in order to build an egalitarian society. The women’s struggle is deeply connected with efforts of all the poor who are struggling for their upliftment in all aspects of life.


Temporary closure of U.K. visa applicaton centres in South India

The UK Border Agency advises customers that the visa application centres in Hyderabad, Cochin and Bangalore will be closed from 31 March to 5 April 2010. The UK visa application centre in Chennai will be closed from 1 to 5 April 2010. The closures are to enable an IT system upgrade as part of a global programme across all British High Commissions and Embassies.

The last date on which the UK Visa Facilitation Services (VFS) will accept new applications in Hyderabad, Cochin and Bangalore is Tuesday 30 March. In Chennai, the last date for applications is Wednesday 31 March. The visa application centres will re-open on Tuesday 6 April. During this closure, customers will be able to collect their passports from the visa application centres from 0900 to 1000 only. Customers who intend to travel to the UK in April are advised to submit their visa applications as soon as possible.

Please note that the UK Border Agency office in Chennai and the customer enquiry email address will also be closed from 2 to 6 April, after which the aim is to resume a normal visa service as quickly as possible.

Any further updates will be placed on the websites: and For general enquires customers may also call the VFS Global helpline: (080) 40084008. Calls are charged at local or STD rates depending on your location. This service will be available Monday to Friday between 08:00 and 17:00.

The UK Border Agency apologises in advance for any inconvenience these closures may cause.

India: stapled Chinese visas unacceptable

The Union government on Thursday reiterated that visas issued by the Chinese Embassy on loose sheets of paper were unacceptable and immigration authorities have been sensitised to the possibility of these being used to travel via Hong Kong.

Replying to questions in the Rajya Sabha, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna said: “We have taken a position that no stapled paper attached to Indian passport is acceptable to us as visa… we have taken up the matter with China on several occasions in the recent past.”

He confirmed that it had come to their notice that some Indians with stapled Chinese visa were travelling to China via Hong Kong.

Mr. Krishna said Indian nationals received a 14-day visa on arrival in Hong Kong and apparently the Hong Kong immigration authorities accepted stapled visas for onward travel to China. “Such stapled visas are not considered valid for travel abroad by the government…”

Virtual maps to help in disaster management

The set-up is straight out of a sci-fi movie. But its applications are for real disasters. Taking a cue from the tsunami that hit the Indian shores on December 26, 2004, the Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS) virtually mapped Nagapattinam district of Tamil Nadu to study levels of inundation in the area for future use in case of natural disasters.

The pilot project, which was initiated by the Government of India during 2007, involved creating 3D maps of coastal areas which provide basic details that can be used during emergency situations. Information on buildings, roads and population can be seen on the maps which are accessed by the Tsunami Warning Centre (TWC) on the INCOIS campus in Hyderabad.

“Since it was one of the worst-hit areas during the tsunami, we decided to map Nagapattinam. The mapping is done based on hi-resolution mathematical and topographic information. These facts and figures are combined and programmed to be displayed on 3D geographical information system (3D-GIS), meaning one can see the buildings as they are in real,” says TWC in-charge Srinivas Kumar.

Details of coastal areas between Nagapattinam and Cuddalore districts were collected to assemble a 3D map covering an area of 100 km along the coast. The mapping area included areas about three km from the coast. “We chose this stretch as it was most populated and damaged area during the tsunami. Studies were conducted to identify the elevation of ground level, population and based on those results, the maps were made,” points out Dr. Kumar.

In case of another natural disaster, the team manning the warning centre can ascertain the extent of inundation, building damage and in due course help chalk out an action plan by accessing information such as road networks, buildings and population.

“A lot of ‘priority’ areas which are prone to inundation have also been tagged on the maps which will be useful in disaster management. Based on these applications, mapping can be done for highly populated areas on the coast,” informs a scientist from the TWC.

With the pilot project complete, INCOIS is planning to start a full-fledged survey of the Indian coastline and begin working on 3D maps later this year.

Whale kills trainer as horrified spectators watch

In this photo taken on Dec. 30, 2005, Dawn Brancheau, a whale trainer at SeaWorld Adventure Park, poses while performing. Brancheau was killed in an accident with a killer whale at the SeaWorld Shamu Stadium Wednesday afternoon, Feb. 24, 2010.

 A SeaWorld killer whale seized a trainer in its jaws and thrashed the woman around underwater, killing her in front of a horrified audience. It marked the third time the animal had been involved in a human death.

Distraught audience members were hustled out of the stadium immediately, and the park was closed on Wednesday.

Trainer Dawn Brancheau, 40, was one of the park’s most experienced. It was not clear if she drowned or died from the thrashing.

A former contractor with SeaWorld told the Orlando Sentinel that the whale, Tilikum, is typically kept isolated from SeaWorld’s other killer whales and that trainers were not allowed to get in the water with him because of his violent history.

There were conflicting accounts of the attack. The sheriff’s office said Brancheau slipped or fell into the whale’s tank, but at least one witness said the animal leaped from the water and dragged the woman in.

A retired couple from Michigan told The Associated Press that Wednesday’s killing happened as a noontime show was winding down, with some in the audience staying to watch the animals and trainers.

Spectator Eldon Skaggs said Brancheau was on a platform with the whale and was massaging it. He said the interaction appeared leisurely and informal.

Encouraging empathy

Children learn very early in life to put themselves in others’ shoes. But to get that going, they must share a positive and caring relationship with parents and caretakers

Empathy, the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and recognise and respond to what that person is feeling, is an essential ingredient of a civilised society. Manifestations of empathy often show up early in life, as when a toddler brings a favourite toy or blanket to another child who is injured or in distress. Some experts maintain that infants display empathy when they whimper or cry upon hearing another baby cry.

Lacking empathy, people act only out of self-interest, without regard for the well-being or feelings of others. The absence of empathy fosters antisocial behaviour, cold-blooded murder, genocide.

Children may enter the world with different capacities for empathy, a result of neural connections in the brain. The capacity for empathy may be partly or wholly lacking in disorders like autism and schizophrenia, in which the mind is focused inward.

Environment is crucial

But in otherwise normal children, the environment in which they are reared can make a big difference in whether empathy is fostered or suppressed. Healthy self-esteem is essential to empathy, so anything that helps children feel good about themselves will also help them recognise and respond effectively to the feelings of others.

If children are to relate positively to others, they must feel secure themselves and “have a secure attachment to another person,” said Carolyn Zahn-Waxler, a psychologist at the University of Wisconsin. Infants and young children whose own distress is ignored, scorned or, worse yet, punished, can quickly become distrustful of their environment and feel unsafe.

Nancy Eisenberg, a psychologist at Arizona State University, agrees. “Children need a positive, caring relationship with their parents or caretakers,” she said in an interview, “if they are to be able to go beyond themselves to care about others.”

“Empathy comes from being empathized with,” Dr. Stanley I. Greenspan, a clinical professor of psychiatry and paediatrics at George Washington University School of Medicine, wrote in his book “Great Kids”.

Children should also be helped to recognise their own feelings and express them, he wrote. By learning to identify and label their feelings, children are better able to recognise the feelings of others. For example, when a child becomes frustrated with a toy car and throws it across the room, his caretaker could say something like: “You’re feeling upset because the car isn’t working the way it should. You don’t like it when toys don’t work.”

Zahn-Waxler says the kind of discipline a child receives should “help the child regulate emotion, to calm down rather than become more agitated”. She advises parents to stay calm: “The more emotionally aroused you are, the more aroused the child is likely to become. Hitting or screaming at a child results in anger and fear and interferes with the child’s ability to care for others.”

Eisenberg emphasised that in addition to avoiding physical punishment, “children should never be threatened with a loss of love” for misbehaviour.

Caretakers can help young children understand how other people feel, say, when a child cries because a toy breaks or is snatched by another child. When a child acts kindly toward someone, Marjorie Taylor, a psychologist at the University of Oregon, suggests that saying something like “You’re very kind for doing this” or “You’re the kind of person who does nice things like that” can help make empathy a part of a young child’s identity.

Even very young children need to know how their behaviour affects others, experts say. They need to have it explained why certain behaviours are hurtful or helpful, and how to make up for bad behaviour.

“Be really explicit, because children can’t draw conclusions as easily as an older person,” Taylor said.

Also helpful, she said, is reading books together and talking about how people (or animals) in a story feel and why they feel that way.

Even televised events of natural disasters can help, by encouraging a child to imagine what it must be like for people whose lives are devastated by an earthquake or tsunami.

Although an early start is ideal, experts say it is possible to instil empathy later — even, for example, in children whose emotional security was neglected in an orphanage.

Undoing the damage may require extra effort on the part of adoptive parents, as well as unconditional love.

Parents and teachers can set a good example of empathetic behaviour by how they behave themselves. The old saying “Do as I do” has particular relevance for fostering empathy in children.

“Parents need to be models of altruism, compassion and caring,” Zahn-Waxler said. “It’s not enough to talk the talk. You need to be seen doing it and you need to show caring behaviour toward your children. Remain calm, not punitive.